Several differences exist between aquariums and terrariums; for snakes, terrariums are generally preferable. While aquariums are essentially five-sided glass boxes designed to hold water, terrariums are cages designed for terrestrial animals that happen to be made of glass for ease of viewing.
Snake Enclosure Requirements
Snakes require an enclosure that is secure, easy to clean and appropriately sized. A number of materials, including glass, plastic and sealed wood, are easily cleanable and strong enough to keep a habitat secure. Space requirements vary among species, but the general rule of thumb is that a snake needs a cage with a perimeter that is twice as long as the snake is. A 6-foot-long snake should have a cage that is about 4 feet long by 2 feet deep. Different kinds of snakes require different heights; in general, arboreal species needs at least 18 to 24 inches of cage height; terrestrial snakes can thrive in cages that are 12 to 18 inches tall. Snake cages must be able to accommodate supplemental heating and lighting fixtures; keepers usually accomplish this via dome lamps that rest on a screened lid.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Aquariums
Hobbyists have used aquariums as snake cages for as long as people have been keeping them as pets, but aquariums are not ideal cages. Aquariums have length, depth and height suitable for fish, which use available space much differently than snakes do. Though it is easy to find aquariums with 4 feet or more in length, and those with lots of height are available, most don't have much depth. Ideally, snake cages should have 18 to 30 inches of depth.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Terrariums
The most helpful aspect of terrariums is their front-opening door. This allows you to access your animal and maintain the habitat much more easily. Additionally, as terrariums are manufactured with a screened top that is designed for the cage, they are typically more secure than an aquarium with an aftermarket or homemade top. As they don’t need to hold the weight and pressure of water, terrariums are made of glass that's thinner than that of aquariums. The use of thinner glass makes terrariums lighter than aquariums but reduces the amount of insulation the glass provides.
Alternative Caging Choices
Though aquariums and terrariums are the most commonly used cages, a number of other options exist. Several manufacturers produce front-opening cages of plastic or wood. An opaque material makes your animal more comfortable and less prone to stress. Wood has the benefit of providing better insulation than glass does. Plastic cages are usually lighter than glass cages of the same size, but wood cages are heavier than those made of either plastic or glass.
- Melissa Kaplan's Herp Care Collection: Reptile Housing: Size, Dimension and Lifestyle
- Melissa Kaplan's Herp Care Collection: Standard Tank Sizes
- Doctors Foster and Smith: Choosing an Enclosure for Your Herp: Common Tank Sizes & Dimensions
- GlassCages.com: Glass Terrariums
- Kingsnake.com: The Boa Page
- BloodPythons.com: Captive Environment
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